GENESIS 32:1-33:11


** THE GOD OF MAHANAIM (32:1-21)

a)  How did God reveal his protecting presence to Jacob as he neared his home country (1,2)?  

The angels of God met him.

What should this mean to him?

That God was with him.  God had promised to be with Jacob.  He had sent an army of angels to remind Jacob of this.  But Jacob was too preoccupied with his own problems to realize what it meant.  An army of angels was with him and he saw and commented, "This is the camp of God!"  So he named the place "Mahanaim."  It was the time for him to remember God's grace and claim God's promises, but instead clung to fear.

a)  What was the problem on his mind as he drew nearer home?

He must meet Esau again.  He had stolen Esau's birthright and blessing.  He had deceived Esau and fled from him after Esau vowed to kill him.  It was an unsolved problem of 20 years.

How did he make initial contact with Esau?

He sent messengers ahead of him to Esau.  He tried to pacify him.

Why was he so worried?

He feared for his life remembering that Esau had vowed to kill him.  He knew that Esau hadn't forgotten what Jacob did to him.  Esau's revenge.

What reveals his anxiety?

He did not go out to meet Esau personally.  He forgot the angels of God who had revealed himself to him in verses 1-2.  Jacob's past had finally caught up with him.  He had struggled and gotten everything he wanted.  But he had no peace.  His heart was full of fear.  He feared for his life; that he would lose everything he had worked for - family and wealth.  Success and human achievement only brought him fear, distress and anxiety.  He had fear which is a tool of the devil.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  Jesus rebuked his disciples for their lack of faith. (Mk 4:40)  If one's heart is full of fear, he can't have any peace.  Many people in our violent and corrupt world are full of vague fears.  Jacob began to calculate in fear.  Verses 3-5.

a)  How did Esau respond?

Esau responded by coming with 400 men to meet Jacob.

How did Jacob interpret his messenger's report about Esau?

He interpreted it as an act of aggression.  According to verses 7-8, he was in great fear and distress.

How had his wealth and even his family become a burden?

They did not solve his fear problem.  He was terrified knowing that he and his family and possession were extremely vulnerable.  How could he defend himself and all of these?  So he tried to save something.

How did he calculate about and prepare for Esau's coming?

According to verses 7-8 he divided the people who were with him into two groups and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought that if Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.

What can we learn from this?

Fear makes one calculate excessively.  There was nothing in the messenger's report in verse 6 indicating that Esau and his 400 men had hostile intentions.  But Jacob immediately interpreted this as a hostile action.  Jacob's fear convinced him that Esau wanted to kill him.

a)  What did Jacob do then (9-11)? 

Jacob prayed an emergency prayer.

What was his one main prayer request (11)?

"O God of my father Abraham, O God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, 'Go back to your country and your relatives and I will make you prosper….'"  It was a prayer to save him from death.  'Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau because I am afraid he will come and attack me…."

How did he address God?

Verse 9.  "O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O Lord…"

Of what did he remind God (9)?  

That God told him to go back to his country and that he would make him prosper.

What did he remember about God's grace in his life (10)?  

God's kindness and faithfulness and how God increased his numbers.

On what promise of God did he base his prayer?

The covenant promise.  See verse 12.

What does this show about his faith?

It is growing and becoming less self-centered.  Jacob had gained everything, but still had fear.  He got what he wanted but it didn't solve his life problem.  Fear comes from not trusting in God.

a)  After prayer, what was his new direction?

To spend the night and select gifts to send to Esau.

What instructions did he give his servants (16-20)?

To go ahead of him and tell Esau that the gifts are for him.  Note all the gifts.  This is quite a lot!

What was the purpose of this series of gifts (20)?  

To pacify Esau so that he would accept Jacob.

What does this reveal about Jacob?

He was still restless after he prayed.  He had no peace, only anxiety.  He sent expensive gifts to Esau and in three groups and the servants attending the animals were to announce when asked, that these animals were a present from Jacob to Esau.  Jacob's fear came from a guilty conscience.  The more he tried to rely on himself, the more he feared.

** THE GOD OF PENIEL (22-31)

a)  Where did Jacob spend the night (21a)?  

By himself in the camp.

What did he get up in the middle of the night to do?

To send everything he had across the river.  Even sending many gifts to Esau didn't bring peace in his heart.  Man's basic life problem is not solved by human compromise.  Everything he had was only a burden to him.  He thought that if he had these things he would be happy. They didn't solve his life problem and his fear and anxiety.

Why did he want to remain alone (21-24a)?

He was restless and wanted to get rid of anything that burdened him.  But this really didn't help him. Yet at the same time it was the opportunity for him to meet God and to struggle with God. Jacob had to meet God.  His inner man had to be changed.  Man must meet God.  We can't depend on anything or anyone.  Everyone must stand before the judgment seat by themselves, naked.

a)  Who was the man who wrestled with him until daybreak (24,28,30)?

The Lord.

What is the significance of this wrestling match?

Jacob had wrestled with men.  In doing so, he had made many enemies and became full of fear and anxiety.  This would be the wrestling match that would change his life.  Through this he would meet God most personally and be changed.  We need to wrestle with God.  How can we?  By struggling to accept his word; by struggling to do his will over my own will; to seek his blessing with all my heart.

a)  How was Jacob injured?

His hip socket was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.  See verse 25 and verse 32.

Who seems to have won the wrestling match (25,26,28)?


What did Jacob ask the Lord to do?

To bless him.  Jacob would not give up.  He wanted the blessing from God.

What blessing do you think Jacob wanted?

The blessing of peace.  In the past Jacob had grabbed many things but they were not the true blessings.  Now, finally, with God's help, he could grab onto something that was truly the blessing.  Surely he wanted God's peace and freedom from fear.  He wanted the spiritual blessing more likely.  The great man always wants the blessing from God.  This should be our reason to struggle with God so that God can bless us.  Even though we work hard, without God's blessing, our lives are empty and miserable.  We need God's blessing.  Jacob knew that although he had worked hard, he had succeeded because of God's blessing.  Now he wanted a spiritual blessing.  He wanted God's living presence in his life.  He wanted to be a spiritual man.

a)  What blessing and new name did the Lord give Jacob?

Jacob to Israel.  The blessing to be a spiritual man and a great nation.

How does this new name suggest a new life?

He would no longer be a deceiver f men.  He would be one who struggles with God and who could be a blessing to others.  God helped Jacob to discover himself.  For the first time he saw himself as a selfish deceiver.  He was ready for a new name and a changed character.  One who struggles with man becomes proud and fearful if he wins; despairs if he loses. But one who struggles with God lives life on a higher level and a different level.  The new name suggests a changed inner life and inner character.  He began a new life as a spiritual man.

What was Jacob's response (28-29)?

He wanted to know the name of the one who wrestled with him.

Why did Jacob want to know the man's name?

It was his desire to know who he had struggled with.  It was a life changing struggle. He wanted to know God.  See verse 29.

a)  What did Jacob name that place?  Why?

"Peniel" which means "face of God."  See verse 30. Jacob had met God face to face.  "It is because I have met God face to face and yet my life was spared."  He was moved by the event.

What permanent reminder of this event did Jacob receive?

He would walk with a limp.

What did he learn?

God had saved his life.  Without God's intervention, Jacob would have died in anxiety.  He would have been miserable only struggling with men for perishing things.  Now he had a new life and a new hope despite his wrenched hip.  He didn't care if he had a wrenched hip.  He was happy now because he had struggled with God and met God.


a)  How did Jacob arrange his family for the meeting with Esau?

He divided his children and wives.  Verse 2.  Rachel and Joseph in the rear.  He himself went ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times.


He still judged that the meeting would be violent.

a)  Describe the meeting.  In what respect was this meeting an anti-climax?

They embraced each other.  It didn't turn out as Jacob expected.  It turned out good.

How had God answered Jacob's prayer?

By protecting him from his brother Esau.  Often the things we fear and dread most become like the morning mist when we commit them to God in prayer.

Why did Jacob say that seeing Esau's face was like "seeing the face of God"?  

He could see Esau differently now after he had struggled with God.  He did not see him as a rival but as brother and friend.  When we struggle with God we see things from a spiritual point of view.

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